"To An Athlete Dying Young"

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SWBAT cite textual evidence from a poem while participating in a deeply textual analysis guided by TP-CASTT.

Big Idea

Interpreting and making meaning of poetry.

Student Preparation

5 minutes

In preparation for introducing TP-CASTT for analyzing poetry, I passed out a TP-CASTT reference sheet which students glued in their notebooks to use as a guide in this exercise and analysis to come. (The acronym stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title Revisited, Theme.)  

Making Connections and Predictions

5 minutes

I passed out the poem, “To An Athlete Dying Young”, by A.E. Houseman,  I asked the students to make a prediction based upon the title as to what the poem would be about.  Can they make any connections to any recent readings?  The discussion brought a connection to an incident in the novel, Tangerine by Edward Bloor, that we are reading as a class – a high school athlete died as a result of being hit by lightning.

Reading and Marking the Poem

10 minutes

The next step was to read and analyze the poem as guided reading, since this is the first time they are “officially” analyzing poetry. Throughout the year, the class has marked the text using familiar steps.

As the first step together, I read the poem aloud and instructed the students to circle unfamiliar words. 

Then I asked students to read silently, and mark the text by boxing words that related to death or dying.

Again we read the poem aloud in class, and students highlighted words the provide a visual image.



25 minutes

Next, I introduced TP-CASTT which is a guide for analyzing poetry.  (The acronym stands for Title, Paraphrase, Connotation, Attitude/Tone, Shift, Title Revisited, Theme.)  

As we begin to analyze for the first time, I used the TP-CASTT power point  in conjunction with class discussion to progress through this initial analysis.  Students also took out a sheet of paper to record their thoughts/interpretations using TP-CASTT format.

 The first “T” represents Title and what does the title mean?  Since we discussed this before reading, the students were able to record their original prediction in their TP-CASTT analysis.

 As a class we discussed the events occurring in the poem.  Students then wrote their “P” (paraphrase) of the poem in their scrutiny of the poem.

 Referring to “C” which exemplifies the connotation of the poem specifically identifying meaningful words and implied or associated significance.   The class discussion reverted back to the beginning of class in which they identified words relating to death and visual images; students then recorded their interpretations within their own charts.

 “A” denotes Attitude or Tone of the author or speaker in the poem.  Through class discussion we specifically addressed this element. Many of the ideas discussed referred back to using meaning gathered from the connotation discussion.

 “S” stands for Shift taking place in the poem.  Is there a place where an idea or attitude shifts or changes in a different direction?  Students reread the poem silently and marked with an “x” where shifts occurred in the poem.  We then discussed how it changed.

 The second “T” in this acronym asks students to revisit the title – does it now mean something different?  Students recorded their new meaning in their analysis.

 The last “T” representing Theme encourages students to reflect upon the poem and identify a message they can interpret from the poem.  They record this in their analysis.


3 minutes

In small groups, I ask students to discuss text-to-text connections that can be made between Mike's death in the novel, Tangerine by Edward Bloor, and the athlete in "An Athlete Dying Young."